River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018
River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mermaids...What Mermaids? - Sat., March 17, 2018

While most people are out looking for leprechauns or drinking green beer on St. Paddy's Day, we were out looking for mermaids. No, we didn't have too much green beer beforehand, we were on a Mermaid Walk sponsored by the San Marcos River Walkers.

Looking for mermaids in San Marcos, Texas, isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. If you look into the history of San Marcos, you will learn about Aquarena Springs, a kitschy place for families with "the world's only submarine theater." From this theater that could blow ballast and lower into the water, families could watch a show that included mermaids and Ralph the swimming pig, known for his "swine" dives. In the 1960s through '80s, Aquarena Springs was one of the most popular tourist attractions in Texas after The Alamo.

Today, all the touristy brouhaha is gone. The area is now Spring Lake. Glass-bottom boat tours run by Texas State University provide an educational look at the springs that bubble up from the depths. The building next to Spring Lake used to be the old hotel, but has been repurposed into a nature center where you can learn about a few of the rare species that inhabit this crystal clear spring water.

Our walk today touted painted mermaid sculptures as a focal point. Through no fault of the San Marcos River Walkers, the mermaids had not yet been moved into place by the city of San Marcos. The walk had been planned for months. It was thought the mermaids would be out; alas, they were not. Not to worry, the San Marcos River Walkers will host another walk when the mermaids are set in place.

As a consolation, a video showing some of the painted mermaids was on display at the start point. In the photo below, notice the mermaid is holding a pig, harking back to Aquarena Springs' heyday.

Photo of a mermaid taken from a video
Sponsoring the walk: San Marcos River Walkers
The club is part of the
Internationaler Volkssportverband (IVV)
Bob and I opted to do the 10k walk which consisted of two 5k loops. We actually found some mermaids, though not the mermaid sculptures. 

The first 5k loop took us around downtown San Marcos. We exited the City Park Rec Hall and headed across the San Marcos River. The river is very clear as the headwater springs are only about 3/4 mile away. 

San Marcos River
After the river, we crossed into a park. The sculpture below is Chief Placidio (Hashukana in his native language) of the Tonkawa tribe. He served as a scout with the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army. He became friends with Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, and Edward Burleson. In 1840, Placidio and other brave tribe members fought alongside Jack C. Hayes, Ben McCulloch, and General Burleson to defeat the Comanche in the Battle of Plum Creek in Lockhart.
Chief Placidio (Hashukana)
We passed the pretty building below but didn't stop to read the historic marker. It looked like a railroad station that may have been moved to this site, but we weren't sure. 

Historic downtown San Marcos

A lovely building
Two of our favorite vagabonds,
Mike and Kathy Schwencke
Bob and I stopped for a smooch.
Daiquiri Factory has a certain ring to it
Jack C. Hayes - Pioneer Surveyor, Texas Ranger,
Community Builder. Sculpture by: Jason Scull, 2001
Historic downtown San Marcos
Below, the whole side of a building is covered by a mural honoring those in the Coast Guard who served our country in times of war and peace.

We walked past what looks like the old jail. It is fenced off. Bob said about five years ago, when he worked for MPS Construction, they refurbished the building with new windows, porch, and decorative fascia. Nothing further has happened to open it as a museum or anything. It's just sitting there looking forlorn.

The old jail? No identifying signs.
The park below is dedicated to music. There was a paper plate there indicating this will be a future mermaid site.

"Electric Jazz" at Eddie Durham Park
Hey! A mermaid sighting!
 San Marcos has a lot of interesting murals.

Wildflower mural
Hayes County Historic Courthouse, 1909
Best mermaid sighting of the day.
We walked past a cerveceria bar advertising "Gut Rockets & Coldies."

Across the street from our walk route was the Juan Veramendi Plaza with a beautiful gazebo, fountain, and a log cabin. We didn't go past them.

Gazebo in Juan Veramendi Plaza
Fellow walkers
We went past the pretty building again. This time my curiosity got the better of me and I read the historical marker. It says: "Old Fish Hatchery Office Building: This structure, erected 1894-1895, originally served as the office building for the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery, established in 1893 near the head of the San Marcos River. The facility closed in 1965 and the site was given to Southwest Texas State University. The building, which features unusually large brackets, then housed the main offices of the school's Aquatic Biological Center until it was moved to this site on the river walkway."

Old Fish Hatchery Office Building
Large brackets
From here, we crossed back over the San Marcos River. The bridge railing was pretty high. Bob was trying to take a photo of me and I was standing high on my tippy toes to look over the railing.

Me on the bridge
A lone kayaker
 Volksmarchers starting the downtown 5k loop
Below are photos of the San Marcos Activity Center Sculpture Garden. I could not find titles or artists located by the sculptures. (I did, however, find some of them identified on Pinterest by Hilary Stunda in her article, "San Marcos Art, a Pied." Don't you just love the internet?)

The "River of Life" piece below is the artist's tribute to the San Marcos River and Aquarena Springs, the river's source.

"River of Life" whirligig by Jim La Paseo
"Memory with a View"

"Caryatids" by Kate Ritson
"Conversation PEACE"
(or Rock, Paper, Scissors)
As we approached Texas State University's Baseball Stadium, a mockingbird serenaded us from about two feet away. The bird was not scared and did not fly away. 
Texas State University baseball stadium
A lovely rose in the city park
Our halfway checkpoint between 5k loops was back at the Rec Hall in the City Park.

From the Rec Hall, we took off on the second 5k loop. One thing about San Marcos, lots of trains come through town. As we started our second loop, I was able to get through some trees to catch a photo of a train coming.

When I finished with the train photo, I hurried to catch up to Bob who was greeting a friend he had met on the Texas Trail Roundup marathon walk. 

Linda, Brian, and Bob
The three guys below are sporting shirts from the Kerrville Trailblazers and Texas Wanderers Volksmarch Clubs. Looks like they're finishing the 5k loop out by Aquarena Springs.

Texas State University's Bobcat Football Stadium
This part of the walk took us on trails around an abandoned golf course by Aquarena Springs.

Wetlands by Aquarena Springs
Large firecracker plant
Watch out for those 15 mph turtles!

Bob on the abandoned golf course 
Determined walkers
At the beginning of the blog, I briefly mentioned the Glass Bottom Boat tours at Aquarena Springs. To me, taking that tour is one of the top things to do in San Marcos. The 30-minute boat tours are an educational arm of Texas State University: the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. Students are narrators. You will see where the powerful springs discharge water into Spring Lake, fish, and aquatic plants. You may even see some volunteer SCUBA divers. Make sure to visit the Discovery Hall exhibits and see the 1,000-gallon aquarium as well.  

We finished the walk and headed to New Braunfels for lunch and a movie. Bob and I love eating at Newk's Eatery. We both had the avocado/cheese/turkey  melt. Mmm. Our waitress said it is their most popular sandwich.

Newk's Eatery, New Braunfels, Texas
Turkey breast/avocado/cheese sandwich & coleslaw
With full tummies, we went to the movies and saw "Red Sparrow." Bob hadn't seen it, and I enjoyed watching it again already knowing the identity of the mole. This is a tightly woven story, but gory in parts. (Rated R for violence and full nudity.)

After that, we called it a day and headed home. Have a good week everyone. Travel Bug out.